MAT vs. M.Ed.: Which Degree Should You Get?

A master's in teaching and a master's in education offer different focuses and career opportunities. Learn about each degree to find the right fit for you.
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  • Graduate students can earn a master's in teaching or a master's in education.
  • An MAT degree emphasizes classroom teaching and instructional roles.
  • An M.Ed. degree prepares graduates for administrative and leadership roles.
  • Consider your interests and career goals when choosing an MAT vs. M.Ed. program.

Wondering whether a master's degree in education is worth it?

The facts speak for themselves: Education is the second most popular field to earn a master's degree in, according to 2019-2020 data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

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But did you know that within education, you can earn a master's in teaching (MAT) or a master of education (M.Ed.)?

What's the difference between an MAT and an M.Ed.? And which degree should you get?

The two degrees focus on different skills and prepare you for different career paths. A master's in teaching focuses largely on classroom skills, while a master's in education focuses on leadership and administration.

Either way, it's important to consider your interests and career goals when determining which type of master's degree in education is best for you.

What Is an MAT?

An MAT, or master of arts in teaching, prepares you for careers in the classroom. Many graduate students in MAT programs are current teachers seeking advanced training in curriculum and instruction or a specific teaching area. But some MAT programs prepare you for initial licensure.

In addition to a bachelor's degree, MAT programs typically require a resume, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation for admission. Some programs also require you to take tests for specific endorsements.

Earning an MAT generally takes two years, with some programs offering an accelerated one-year option. And the good news? You can also earn your master's in teaching online.

Hoping to work while you're in school? With an MAT, most graduates also work as teachers.

And after getting your degree, if you're hoping to enter a more specialized role like instructional coordinator or special education teacher, an MAT can help you do so. Plus, you can add endorsements to your teaching license.

What Is an M.Ed.?

An M.Ed., or master of education, prepares you for leadership and specialized roles. Most M.Ed. students have teaching experience and use their graduate degree to move into administrative positions.

You can choose a focus area like educational leadership, curriculum and instruction, or educational technology. Other options are school counseling or higher education administration.

During an M.Ed., you'll generally complete 1-2 years of coursework. Common M.Ed. courses include leadership in schools, curriculum design, education policy, and school finance. And most programs often include fieldwork.

Looking for a little more flexibility in your schedule? You can also earn a master's in education online.

To apply, you'll need a bachelor's degree, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. Many programs also require teaching experience and standardized tests like the GRE.

So what do the career opportunities look like? With an M.Ed., you can work as a school principal, college administrator, school counselor, and many other roles.

What's the Difference Between an MAT vs. M.Ed.?

The main difference between an MAT vs. M.Ed. relates to the focus and career opportunities with each degree.

An MAT emphasizes teaching skills, including content area coursework, whereas an M.Ed. emphasizes administrative skills, including educational leadership.

When choosing between an MAT and M.Ed., consider the following learning objectives and career paths:

MAT M.Ed.
  • Prepares graduates for classroom-focused roles in education
  • Includes advanced coursework in teaching, assessment, and content areas like math, social studies, or English language arts
  • Offers multiple subject-matter concentrations for teachers
  • Prepares graduates for leadership and policy roles in education
  • Includes specialized training for administrative roles, such as principal, school administrator, or school counselor
  • Offers multiple career-centered concentrations for educators

3 Factors to Consider When Choosing Between an MAT and M.Ed.

So should you apply to an MAT or an M.Ed. program? The answer depends on your personal interests and career goals. Before submitting applications, it's helpful to decide which factors are most important to you.

Factor 1: Your Learning Objectives

It may sound simple, but consider your learning objectives.

What are you hoping to gain from a master's program? What matters to you more: classroom skills or administrative training?

By knowing your priorities and your learning objectives, you can find a degree and program that matches your needs.

Factor 2: Your Course Interests

You know what you like better than anyone else. So ask yourself: What kinds of courses do you want to take?

Read through course descriptions for MAT and M.Ed. programs to figure out your course interests. Are you more interested in classroom work or fieldwork opportunities?

It's also helpful to look into the culminating project for different programs. Will you write a thesis? Design a curriculum, or complete a capstone project? Which one interests you more?

Factor 3: Your Career Aspirations

Lastly, look to the future — at least the near future.

Knowing your career goals will help you choose between an MAT vs. M.Ed. degree. Do you want to work directly with students in the classroom? If so, an MAT probably makes the most sense.

Or are you interested in leadership roles, adult education, or higher education administration? In that case, an M.Ed. may be the better fit.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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